See Andy's other stuff:

Contact Me >>

Lauren Vargas on writing Aetna’s social media playbook

This is a post from my company,’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

This story features tips and advice from Lauren Vargas, Community Strategy Director at Aetna. We’re happy to call her a member of since 2011.

Keeping social media guidelines clear and consistent across a huge enterprise can be tricky, and it’s even more difficult if that enterprise is a regulated industry like healthcare. That’s why Aetna brought Lauren Vargas onto their team to help them develop a social media playbook.

Her work with the Army and Air Force Exchange put her in a unique position to learn how to create a social presence for a highly regulated industry, and with prior experience as a director of community for Radian6, her social media playbook was already in the making.

“I had the majority of it before I even walked in the door at Aetna,” says Lauren.

But according to Lauren, she wasn’t done evolving the playbook to fit Aetna’s need for a community manager guide.

Laura wanted to create a playbook for everyone (not just the social media team).

According to Lauren, “The playbook is designed so that anybody can pick it up and understand what their roles and responsibilities are, or if they have community managers as a part of their team, managers can easily see what that scope and scale of their responsibilities may be. It’s a style guide. It is all of the governance around community structure.”

That means the playbook isn’t just a tool for community managers, but also a guide for helping Aetna develop a culture of social business. She says that an easily accessible playbook like this helps large enterprises like Aetna adapt and respond more smoothly to social media changes.

That means that anyone from the executive suite, legal, HR, or different business units can understand the impact, the resources they need, and what they have to do. Lauren explains that this is important knowledge to have before employees start making Facebook pages or Twitter handles.

As Lauren explains, there’s a lot more to it than just setting up Facebook profiles, “and we had to explain what that ‘more’ looked like.”

This playbook would help Aetna on their journey to become a social business.

It’s all a part of Aetna’s goal to build an inherently social business model, and while this attitude is rare for a regulated business, Lauren explains that Aetna’s not alone.

“I really think that more companies are becoming aware of the fact that there is no going back. This is not a fad. They need to understand that this has to be integrated with the overall business and not just a bolt on strategy.”

Lauren’s team works hard to make sure “everyone’s singing off of the same song sheet,” when it comes to using social media at Aetna.

“The smoother it can be behind the scenes, the better the external communication becomes.”

For example, as a part of their playbook, anyone who wants a Facebook page or Twitter handle needs to have a community manager and a clearly identified strategy for the social channel they want to use or the content they want to create for it.

Best practices like these keep everyone focused on the right goals and keep Aetna’s social media presence clear and consistent.

The playbook is always evolving.

“It’s not something that you just create and forget about or that only goes through an annual review,” Lauren explains.

In fact, Lauren says that because things change so rapidly in social media they review the playbook at least quarterly.

“We need to adapt our playbook to adjust to external changes as well as how we listen or engage with our various communities.”

That means going over changes with HR, the legal team, and other business units to continually make it better.

Right now, Lauren’s team is working on a formal training program that will help every employee understand how to apply social media and community management to their current role and responsibilities.

Lauren’s recommendations for writing your own playbook: Consider why you’re participating in social first.

“Start by taking a step back and think about what the needs, the challenges, and the desires are for your participation in the space, and start to map out what that conversation looks like — both inside and outside your company walls,” says Lauren.

From there, you can figure out what the risk mitigation looks like and who needs to be involved in your social media strategy.

She also advises building your resources and scaling your own knowledge, expertise, and vision into the broader company mission. Then you can bring more people in, communicate the message, and practice the culture shift.

Want to learn more about Lauren’s social media playbook? Watch her presentation at’s Member Meeting in Chicago, or check out her collection of articles related to community management at Delicious.

Aetna: Building an Enterprise-Wide Community Competency, presented by Lauren Vargas from on Vimeo.

[contact-form-7 id="27185" title="contact-form 3 TellAFriend-Post"]